Chicago Goes High-Tech with Cameras, Biochemical Sensors

$53 million to be spent on fiber-optic network that will connect cameras and biochemical sensors to watch for signs of terrorism

In addition to early detection of terrorist attacks, the system will be used to look for criminal activity, help the city manage disasters and even allow traffic monitors to change street-light timing to reduce traffic backups, Huberman said.

"It provides a virtual shield for the city of Chicago," Huberman said.

Announcement of the Homeland Security Grid came a day after Daley proposed to the City Council a $53 million settlement with RCN, which failed to live up to its city franchise agreement by not expanding its services. RCN emerged from bankruptcy in December.

To satisfy the settlement, RCN will provide to the city 388 miles of underground fiber-optic cables for 75 years, mostly along the city's lakefront, said Norma Reyes, commissioner of consumer services. That cable is valued at $31 million, she said.

RCN, which has pledged to maintain that cable for the agreement's duration, is expected to spend $17.5 million to maintain and upgrade that cable over the next five years, Reyes said. RCN also will make a $4.5 million payment to the city's general fund and, beyond the settlement amount, a $2 million payment to Chicago Access Network Television.

The new cable will augment about 600 miles owned by the city and sister agencies. The city cable all will be linked before the new cable is connected, Huberman said.

To add new cameras and link the entire system over the next 18 months, the city will spend about $5 million it obtained through federal homeland security grants, Huberman said.

"One of the areas that the RCN fiber agreement has given us is great penetration along the Chicago lakefront," he said. "This is a very significant increase of cameras along the Chicago lakefront and along Lake Shore Drive."

If the city had installed the system on its own, it would have spent $100 million, Huberman said.